Leadership Tussle: Students Tackle Government
The end is not yet in sight for the lingering crisis involving factions within the fold of the Nasarawa State Students’ Association, (NASSA). Dhikru Akinola, who has been following the crisis, writes.
NASSA was established at the same time the state was established in 1996 and had as its first president, the incumbent commissioner of justice,Barrister Innocent Lagi. His tenure was adjudged as peaceful.
Seventeen years after, NASSA has been allegedly polarised by one Kasim Muhammad Kasim, the Special Assistant on Student matters.
“Election would have been conducted but we couldn’t due to the Ombatse crisis in the state. So, a mini-convention was held on October 7th October, 2013 at the Nasarawa State Polytechnic Lafia where a caretaker transition committee was set up. Nasir Abdullahi of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria emerged chairman. The transition committee were to be in the saddle until the national convention takes place,” Ibrahim Dallah Kabir, a former assistant general secretary narrated to this reporter.
He continued: “the outgoing executive members supervised the mini-convention which met all democratic processes and we submitted the names of these elected persons to the appropriate authority for recognition without any complaint by any student or group of students.
“All the presidents of the local chapters (known as senators) were present unlike that of Kasim Muhammad that was called in the presence of the commissioner of higher education without the knowledge of the legitimate students where their puppets cum loyalists were selected as the leaders of the Students in Nasarawa State in other to further their political ambitions come 2015.”
On how it started, Dallah said that it was on a Friday “7th September, 2013 when I overheard a shocking and sad news from Nasarawa State Broadcasting Service (NBS) that the National Executives of NASSA have been dissolved by Kasim Muhammad And The Commissioner for Higher Education without following due process.
What did you do? He said that when things deteriorated, he met Kasim, “Yes, I met Kasim on a Monday and I drew his attention to the constitution of NASSA where it is spipulated that it is only the legitimate students that has rights to dissolved and constitute a caretaker committee cum electoral committee.
“And he said that they have ultimate power to dissolved and constitute the committee since the Government are the one sponsoring the activities of the association in the state,which is contrary to the constitution of NASSA.”
In one of his letters to Governor Tanko Almakura of Nasarawa State, Ibrahim Kabiru Dallah, a former assistant general secretary of NASSA, called the attention of the State helmsman to “Kasim Muhammad kind of arrangement of imposing his puppets cum loyalists”.
Dallah said that “there was never a time when the government imposed any group of puppets as student leaders, saying that the present government is not also interested in the divide and rule strategy as the only means of securing the 2015 ticket”.
Corroborating Dallah’s position, the outgoing national executives of NASSA, represented by its national vice president, comrade Lucky Yargwa of Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, on Thursday 28th November, 2013 in a press conference in Lafia, warned the government, police and other security agencies not to allow “Kasim and his co-travellers” to conduct any election, explaining that their role must be to ensure the unity in the youths and students movement in the State.
It reads in part: “The attention of the outgoing past executives of the Nasarawa State Students Association (NASSA) has been drawn to some group of unknown students who are parading themselves as the executives of this association without any organised convention as provided by the NASSA constitution in section 23 and section 33 to pilot the affairs of the Association”.
Describing the attempt to impose Friday Chorio and others as leaders of NASSA as another way to further their political ambitions, he said that “it is laughable, preposterous and incongruous to realize that Kasim Muhammad, the Special Assistant on Student Matters, Mr. Philip T. Shekwo, the Nasarawa State Commissioner for Higher Education are using all means available, including intimidation.
Sunday Taimako is the outgoing president of NASSA, he described the crisis as an interest between individuals and government. “We planned the election late but it couldn’t work. And that was why we organised a mini convention. It is not stipulated in our constitution that external influence should control our activities. It is a students’ association and so, that gives us the legitimacy to elect who governs us.
“In the heat of this crisis, I called the commissioner for higher education and we sat down with him but it seems the government’s interest is supreme. They are bent on imposing on us.
“We are going round to settle it. And the only thing that will work is a unity convention where everybody will come together and iron our all our grievances. Interest is permanent in humanbeing,” he said.
Speaking with our reporter, Friday Chorio said he was duly appointed by the commissioner for higher education. He observed that only the senate of NASSA has the power to constitute electoral body and not the executive. “It is contrary to sections 21, 22 and 23 of NASSA’s constitution. What actually happened was that the outgone executives couldn’t conduct election. After a while, the commissioner for higher education invited us to discuss way forward because there was vacancy for over 3 weeks. The commissioner then deemed it fit to set up the caretaker committee as stipulated by section which allows the patron to act in that regard. The ministry of higher education waded in. If they are not satisfied, they should seek redress. Though I am not aware of any faction but if there is, they are imposing themselves.
He said that election will take place soon as they are planning. He urged everyone to shealth their sword and move forward for unity and peace to reign in the students’ body.
However, Kasim has reacted to Dallah’s allegations. In a phone conversation, he said that Dallah has never been a student-leader. “Even, he has never held any position. Dallah is no longer a student. He lacks the capacity to speak for them. If he has a personally grudges, he should fight it solely. He has been jumping from one state to another, running away from security. I don’t have hands in NASSA activities. We agreed unanimously to set up caretaker committee to organise a credible election. The committee chairman is Friday Chorio. It was later I heard that some people have constituted another committee. If they havr grudges, they should write to my office”.
He went further to say that “Dallah was the architect of the crisis that erupted at the Nasarawa State University, Keffi, NSUK. A committee set up afterward indicted him and the governor has issued a circular that Dallah shouldn’t enter all Nasarawa State higher institutions. How would somebody who has been banned speak? Though, I recognise him as someone from Nasarawa State but this is a guy who has also been disowned by his family”.
Refuting Kasim’s statement that he was no longer a student and never a student-leader, Dallah said that he was once the assistant secretary general and Assistant financial secretary of NASSA when he was in Ahmadu Bello University Zaria and “as such, I’m a stakeholder in the students and youths movement in Nasarawa State and beyond.
Dallah, a graduate of Quantity Surveying from Ahmadu Bello University Zaria and presently a masters student at the University of Bedfordshire, Luton, United Kingdom studying project management said how could he have caused any riot when he was never a student of NSUK.
He confirmed that he was indicted. “Yes, I was indicted but it was politically motivated. It was because of my timely reportage of the NSUK crisis in the media with a clear warning to the Nasarawa State Government not to indict the leadership of the student union government in NSUK.
“I was victimized not because I caused the crisis in NSUK but it was because I stood firmly against the state government and the management of NSUK not to victimise the students, and to that effect the NANS president, Comrade Yinka Gbadebo wrote to the government of Nasarawa State to withdraw the baseless allegation against my personality
He said that his parents are happy and proud of him, explaining that they live in the same roof “and it is one of the reasons why they secured the Masters’ degree admission for me in the University of Bedfordshire, Luton, United Kingdom.
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